Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. Chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef Champion, from the original series. He is the third-generation chef of a kaiseki restaurant that is located in the historic district on Nihonbashi. His restaurant is about a three minute walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit.
On this chilly spring day he starts his lunch course with a savory, warm egg custard, chawanmushi. Inside of the custard is anago eel and it is topped with some grated ginger, which helps warm up the body.
I like to request a seat at the counter so that chef Nonaga can answer questions about the different ingredients and cooking techniques. He’s very passionate about Japanese cuisine and enjoys sharing his knowledge with diners. He doesn’t speak English so it’s best to go with a Japanese speaker.
The bentō lunch needs to requested when making your reservation. It is a mini-kaiseki meal as it includes a variety of dishes incorporating seasonal ingredients that are prepared using different cooking techniques.
One of chef Nonaga’s signature dishes is a Japanese dish made from chicken liver that is topped with keshi no mi. It is not served with the bentō, but we were talking about Valentine’s Day and chocolate and he paired this with some chocolate.
While it is called a bentō, it is an extravagant affair that is presented in a lacquer box. It’s quite a feast:
Sashimi topped with a nattō dressing that he created with an Ibaraki nattō purveyor.
Tender Yamagata pork kakuni.
Tempura of shishitō pepper, shiitaké mushroom, wakasagi Japanese smelt that is is rolled in komé-ko (rice flour) before deep-fried, and kakiagé – a melange of seafood and vegetables deep-fried in a little cake.
Rice is studded with benidaizu red beans from Yamagata, and more.
With the tsukuri, sashimi course, chef Nonaga puts some nattō dressing on it. There was also something crunchy. I asked him if it was dried nattō beans and he said that it was deep-fried anago bones. A great example that nothing goes to waste in the Japanese kitchen.
Nihonbashi Yukari is the rare kaiseki restaurant that serves dessert. This day it is a mattcha yogurt babaloa with a strawberry from Ibaraki, azuki paste, and wasanbon sugar.
And, as if that was not enough, chef Nonaga gave us a second dessert. A cookies and cream ice cream that had some ground coffee in it.
There are so many things why this is a favorite of mine. The location can’t be beat as it is in the heart of the city. Chef Nonaga is full of personality and sitting at the counter, I always learn new things about Japanese cuisine. The food incorporates seasonal ingredients – and many of it from Tokyo, including Tokyo Bay. Finally, it is a bargain when compared to similar restaurants. A client recently dined here twice during her stay in Tokyo and she wrote about it on her blog. If you go, please tell chef Nonaga that Yukari sent you.
Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14